About Obama’s “We Don’t Have a Strategy Yet” Statement; Don’t Fall for the Right’s Distortions

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Here we go again, folks; you can see it coming already. During his press conference today, President Obama talked at length about the need to develop a strong, comprehensive regional strategy with US allies and partners to address the threat of ISIL.

So what are the right wing blogs going to be screaming about? At one point, Obama said these words:

We don’t have a strategy yet.

This will be the right wing’s next “You didn’t build that” — a deliberately distorted, out of context deception to enrage their base. It’s starting already:

But here’s the transcript, and for the record, I’ll pull out everything else Obama said about developing a strategy. I don’t expect this to affect the coming right wing freak-out (they’re impervious to facts), but for the record:

ISIL poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region, and that’s why our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners who are taking the fight to ISIL, and that starts with Iraq’s leaders building on the progress that they’ve made so far and forming an inclusive government that will unite their country and strengthen their security forces to confront ISIL.


Any successful strategy, though, also needs strong regional partners. I’m encouraged so far that countries in the region, countries that don’t always agree on many things, increasingly recognize the primacy of the threat that ISIL poses to all of them. And I’ve asked Secretary Kerry to travel to the region to continue to build the coalition that’s needed to meet this threat.


As I’ve said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I’m confident that we can and we will, working closely with our allies and our partners. For our part, I’ve directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options. I’ll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy.


What is true, though, is that the violence that’s been taking place in Syria has obviously given ISIL a safe haven there in ungoverned spaces. And in order for us to degrade ISIL over the long term, we’re going to have to build a regional strategy. Now, we’re not going to do that alone.


But when we look at a broader strategy that is consistent with what I said at West Point, that’s consistent with what I said at the National Defense College, clearly ISIL has come to represent the very worst elements in the region that we have to deal with collectively. And that’s going to be a long-term project.


QUESTION: Do you need Congress’s approval to go into Syria?

OBAMA: You know, I have consulted with Congress throughout this process. I am confident that as commander in chief I have the authorities to engage in the acts that we are conducting currently. As our strategy develops, we will continue to consult with Congress, and I do think that it’ll be important for Congress to weigh in and we’re — that our consultations with Congress continue to develop so that the American people are part of the debate.

But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet. I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are. And I think that’s not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military, as well. We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them. At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard.


Now as we go forward, as I’ve described to Chuck, and look at a broader regional strategy with an international coalition and partners to systematically degrade ISIL’s capacity to engage in the terrible violence and disruptions that they’ve been engaging in, not just in Syria, not just in Iraq but potentially elsewhere if we don’t nip this at the bud, then those consultations with Congress for something that is longer term I think become more relevant.


But, as I said to Chuck, I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. And in some of the media reports, the suggestion seems to have been that, you know, we’re about to go full scale on an elaborate strategy for defeating ISIL.


We are gonna work politically and diplomatically with folks in the region. And we’re gonna cobble together the kind of coalition that we need for a long-term strategy as soon as we are able to fit together the military, political and economic components of that strategy. There will be a military aspect to that. And it’s gonna be important for Congress to know what that is, in part because it may cost some money.


If those things are followed through on and we are able to combine it with a sound military strategy, then I think we can be successful. If we can’t, then the idea that the United States or any outside power would perpetually defeat ISIS I think is unrealistic.

There you have it. The right will have their very predictable freak-out session, but maybe some people will refer to this post for the rest of the story.

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